Rotorua's council has got into the festive spirit deciding to introduce free two-hour parking city-wide in the lead up to Christmas.
The decision comes after Rotorua District councillors decided to trial free parking at a committee meeting on October 24, but then reversed their decision less than a week later, much to the disappointment of the city's retailers.
However, after further discussions with retailers, councillors agreed to a proposal which will see free parking introduced to the city for 12 days in the lead up to Christmas.
Councillors voted unanimously to introduce free parking at a meeting of the council's corporate and customers services committee on Thursday.
The council's economic and regulatory services group manager, Mark Rawson, said in a report to councillors the initiative was designed as a Christmas gift from the council to the retailers and residents of Rotorua to help promote the central business district as a great place for Christmas shopping in the 12 days leading up to
"The council has a number of initiatives underway to try and influence the creation of a more vibrant CBD environment, such as Eat Streat and the Walkable City concept.
"These initiatives are all designed to have a medium to longer-term outcome on the CBD environment but will all
take at least the next few months to be implemented.
"However, the concept of two hours free parking for the 12 days leading up to Christmas is one of the most prac
tical influences the council can have on the foot-traffic in the CBD in the short-term.''
Mr Rawson said the initiative was also designed to address concerns of retailers and shoppers at the downturn of visible shoppers in the city centre due to a perceived problem created by the introduction of pay and display parking meters.
Parking wardens would continue to patrol the streets enforcing the two-hour limit and other offences including ex
pired registrations and warrants.
Retail staff are being encouraged not to park outside stores with the council also offering 120 free parks in the
Pukuatua St car parking building on a daily first come, first served basis.
The cost to the council for the initiative would be between $20,000 and $30,000 in lost parking fine revenue and about $3000 in marketing and promotion costs.
The free parking initiative applies to all metered parks in the city with other parking restrictions, such as 15
minute parks and loading zones, to remain the same.
Mr Rawson said the council would investigate longer-term sustainable on-street parking options for the central city as part of the 2013 Annual Plan process.
Rotorua retailer Ron Finn of Finn's Fashions said pay and display had been a real bug-bear for shoppers and
congratulated the council for the initiative.
"We've been talking to the council for the past weeks and months ... I congratulate them for pulling out all of the
stops to make this happen.
"Rotorua retailers have been left to wallow in a big CBD that was supposed to have everything in it.
"Hopefully, this will help start bringing people back into town,'' Mr Finn said.
Rotorua Mayor Kevin Winters said the success, or otherwise, of the free parking initiative would be assessed in the New Year.
"This is our Christmas gift to the residents and retailers of our city during what we know are pretty tough and chal
lenging economic times for many people.
"For shoppers it's a chance to save a few dollars off those numerous trips into town for Christmas shopping. We know every dollar counts at this time of year.
"And for retailers, we hope it will help stimulate some extra foot traffic and retail business during the year's
most important trading period,'' he said.
Two-hour free parking in the cental city from Thursday December 13 to Monday December 24
120 free parks for retail workers in the car parking building on Pukuatua St
Vehicles must be moved after two hours
Warrant and registration checks will still be done